August conjures up images of county fairs and carnival rides, but there’s one other roller coaster ride this time of year in the IT industry: the Gartner Hype Cycle.

The Hype Cycle actually bears a remarkable resemblance to the transition cycle, which can relate to many types of change ranging from learning new things to dealing with psychological trauma. “Models of transition endeavor to describe how individuals respond to change, either in their own lives or environment,” writes occupational psychologist Dai Williams. And that makes sense. As we’ve mentioned before, change is hard, and implementing a new technology is certainly change.

“There’s a sense of euphoria we all experience when we begin something new,” writes Sean Kim in Rypeapp. “Once the Honeymoon phase fades away, we experience the ‘dip’ and our progress begins to plateau or diminish. This is when most of us quit. The reason why this is important to visualize is because if you can predict that a dip is coming whenever you’re learning anything new, it’s easier to fight through it. More importantly, the dip is there because those persistent enough to stick it through can ride the upward wave that is at the end of the tunnel.”

Gartner helped by adding snazzy titles to the various stages of the cycle, such as the Peak of Inflated Expectations instead of the “Honeymoon” phase, and the Trough of Disillusionment instead of a “dip.” “Like a character arc, it dangles the promise of redemption in the end,” writes Director Jay Wilson. “What will actually make it to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, survive the Trough of Disillusionment, and ascend to that redemption at the Plateau of Productivity brings an element of suspense to the research.”

While most people tend to think of a single Hype Cycle, Gartner actually has more than a hundred of them for different technology families, countries, and industries. The industries where the Hype Cycle changed the most include application infrastructure, application security, cloud computing, connected vehicles and smart mobility, digital banking, and education.

What makes the Hype Cycle particularly interesting this year is that a number of technologies are interrelated, so they tend to platoon up and down the Hype Cycle as a unit, according to Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analysts Betsy Burton and David Willis. This is because five megatrends are driving overall movement on the cycle:

  • Digital Business. “Several of the most significant profiles for digital business (digital business, digital business consulting services, Internet of Things and smart machines) remain high on the Peak of Inflated Expectations,” they write.
  • Internet of Things (IoT), Mobility, and Smart Machines. “Mobility, IoT and smart machines are intertwined and mutually reinforcing,” they write. “As in 2014, several IoT technologies are moving rapidly up the Peak of Inflated Expectations, along with several profiles related to smart machines, including IoT platforms and connected homes.”
  • Digital Marketing/Digital Workplace. “Several rapidly moving technologies, services and disciplines related to digital workplace and digital marketing—which are two very distinct disciplines—are quickly moving from the Innovation Trigger toward the Peak of Inflated Expectations,” they write. “While ‘digital marketing’ overall is approaching the Peak of Inflated Expectations, because digital marketing tactics have been used for some time, it is critical to recognize that digital marketing as a unified, coherent multichannel strategy is much less mature.” In fact, Gartner is adding a hype cycle specific to digital marketing.
  • Analytics. “Digital business, digital marketing, IoT and mobility all drive more data into the enterprise, which needs capabilities to analyze and use information analytics, especially in real time,” they write.
  • Big Data/Cloud. Last year, we learned that cloud was at the Trough of Disillusionment, while Big Data was well on its way there, and things aren’t any different this year. “As big data and cloud become ingrained in the fabric of business and IT, clients begin to see through the market hype, and the realities of their strengths and challenges become clearer.” In fact, big data is becoming so pervasive across the industry that Gartner no longer has a “Big Data” Hype Cycle per se. “Dealing with large sets of information has become an integral part of most organizations’ businesses, and part of most computing environments,” they write. “Therefore, we are integrating the big data and information topics across a number of Hype Cycles—for instance, the Hype Cycle for Business Intelligence and Analytics, 2015—rather than covering the topics in one single Hype Cycle.”

The bad news? Not many technologies are making the move out of the Trough of Disillusionment toward the Plateau of Productivity, where users get more realistic about what they can expect from a new technology, Burton and Willis write. “This may illustrate the less dramatic and more gradual nature of the shift toward the plateau than either the approach toward the peak, or the approach toward the trough,” they speculate.

Guess it’s back to the ol’ merry-go-round.

Sharon Fisher

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